"Can we all just calm down a little?" -- the first line of Saturday's "Talking Business" column in The New York Times -- exemplifies how some mainstream pundits believe populist rage against AIG bonuses went too far last week.
But calming down about the obscene greed of AIG and other corporations weakens pressure on politicians to rein in that greed. It also sets a bad example. For instance, picture a bunch of employees telling their boss that they're sick of working 20 hours of unpaid overtime a week. The boss snaps: "Can we all just calm down a little?" To which the employees reply: "Oh, yes. We saw that advice in The New York Times. Sorry we wanted to have a family life. We'll work in the office 24/7 and take only occasional catnaps on the company's anti-union brochures."
Or imagine mom and pop angrily confronting a thief who broke into their home. They're about to call the police when the robber demands: "Can we all just calm down a little?" The crime victims reply: "Oh, yes. We saw that advice in The New York Times. Sorry we tried to protect our possessions. Steal whatever you want, including our Huffington Post toaster oven."
Or picture political prisoners being tortured by right-wing government thugs. They're screaming in agony when the thugs say: "Can we all just calm down a little?" The prisoners reply: "Oh, yes. We saw that advice in The New York Times. Sorry we screamed so much. As you continue torturing us, we'll sing the 'Barney' song."
So allow me to conclude with a bit of poetry inspired by Barney the purple dinosaur: "I wuv you, you wuv me, some pundits ain't populism-y. With a great big hug for the bonus-grabbing crew, some pundits take the corporate view."